Whiplash is an acute injury of at least moderate intensity which causes a strain to the bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, and vertebral discs of the neck region. It is caused by a sudden, unexpected impact which jerks the head back and then forward causing the neck to snap out of alignment.
Even low speed accidents can cause significant injuries depending on where and how hard your car got hit, your position in the car, the position of your head, type of seat, position of the headrest, your pre-accident medical condition, and other things.
Only 12% of persons who suffer from whiplash are symptom-free after 10 years
Saab was the first to introduce an active protection system (SAHR); Volvo’s “Whiplash Protection Seating System” reduces acceleration forces on the neck by up to 50 %
A study by Young et al. (2005) showed that 93% of all head restraints observed were sub-optimally positioned
A L Young, B T Ragel, E Su, C N Mann, E H Frank: Assessing automobile head restraint positioning in Portland, Oregon; Injury Prevention 2005; 11: 97-101.
Ensure that the top of the head restraint is as high as the top of your head
Position the head restraint as close to the rear of your head as possible
Terminology Adjust your head restraint Source: http://www.iihs.org/ratings/head_restraints_info.html http://www/rospa.co.uk/roadsafety/info/adjust_head_restraints.pdf 7 cm 6 cm
Examples of Properly & Poorly Adjusted Head Restraints Picture 1 This picture shows a well adjusted head restraints, which will reduce the risk of suffering a whiplash injury. The seat back angle is relatively upright and this allows the head restraints to be positioned close to the back of the head. The top of the head restraints is level with the top of the occupants head, which will also help to prevent injury. Picture 2 The picture shows a poorly adjusted head restraint. Even though the top of the head restraint is level with the top of the occupants head, a large gap exists between the back of the occupants head and the head restraint. The gap – which is marked using the yellow arrow – means that the head can tilt and move further back, increasing the risk of injury. Source: http://www/rospa.co.uk/roadsafety/info/adjust_head_restraints.pdf
Examples of Properly & Poorly Adjusted Head Restraints Picture 3 This picture shows another example of a properly adjusted head restraints. As in Picture 1 the two main points to note are that the head restraint is as high as the top of the occupant’s head, and the restraint is close to the back of the head. Picture 4 This picture is an example of a poorly adjusted head restraint. The yellow arrow shows the distance between the top of the occupant’s head and the top of the head restraint, which would increase the risk of an injury. The head restraint should be moved higher in order to adjust it correctly, as shown in picture 3. Source: http://www/rospa.co.uk/roadsafety/info/adjust_head_restraints.pdf
How Can It Be Prevented? Source: http://www.turnfast.com/tech_driving/driving_seating.shtml First, the driver's back should be flat against the back of the seat with the buttocks squarely tucked into the corner created at the intersection of the seat back and bottom. The underside of the legs should be in contact with the seat bottom. The purpose of this position is to provide as much surface contact between the driver's body and the seat. This has safety benefits as well as providing the driver with the most tactile feedback as possible Second is the arm position. The arms when fully extended should allow the wrists to rest at the top of the steering wheel. This allows the arms to be slightly bent at the elbow when fully extended for a turn. The purpose of this position is to prevent the arms from being overextended during turns (the shoulders should not need to lift from the seat back even to do a full arm crossover). Overextending the arms will cause them to tire quickly, and will cause the driver to lose sensitivity to the vibrations in the steering wheel Third is the leg position. When any of the pedals are fully depressed with the ball of the foot on the pedal (not the toes), the leg should still be bent at the knee. This is to prevent overextension as described for the arms. Be sure that the knees are not against the under dash or steering column. In fact, there should be several inches room to prevent injury in event of a collision. “ Adjust your seat position”
Leave plenty of space (escape route) if you are the last car in a traffic jam – closely observe oncoming traffic in rear view mirror
Look up safety ratings before buying your next car (see links below)
Useful Links http://www.euroncap.com/ (European New Car Assessment Programme) http://www.hwysafety.org/ (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – USA) http://www.aap.org/family/carseatguide.htm (American Academy of Paediatrics – Infant Car Seats) http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/ (Department of Transport (UK) – Multiple Topics) http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-51/MisBio/headpos.pdf (Head Restrained Related Info)